Representatives from the MPAA and The Net Coalition debate the merits of SOPA

By Azita Mirzaian

Recently, representatives from the MPAA and The Net Coalition debated the merits of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation on Los Angeles public radio station KPCC’s AirTalk. Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America, exchanged heated comments with Markham Erickson, executive director of The Net Coalition, an organization that represents leading global internet and tech companies such as Google and Amazon. While at times, the discussion devolved into snarky, off-topic accusations of who makes more profits and who is behaving in a more self-serving manner, the discussion was a good representation of the dichotomous positions of the tech industry and the film industry when it comes to SOPA.

The proposed SOPA legislation aims to aggressively protect copyrighted content on the internet by allowing the government to shut down and block access to offshore sites that enable online piracy of copyrighted content. During the discussion on AirTalk, the MPAA’s O’Leary insisted that the legislation is necessary to protect American jobs. He stated that the legislation not only protects creative communities such as the movie and music industries, but also protects consumers by ensuring that the pharmaceuticals, electronics, and fashion items that they purchase online are legitimate and safe.

The Net Coalition’s Erickson countered that although he is not opposed to stopping online piracy, the proposed SOPA legislation is an over-reaching, ineffective piece of legislation that will do little to stop online piracy while at the same time dangerously diminishing internet freedom. Erickson cited the example of Wikileaks to illustrate his point that that stopping payment processors and advertisers from working with offshore sites is an effective solution to the online piracy problem. But, he said, the SOPA legislation goes way beyond that by also having the government impose technological measures that would block users’ access to offshore sites. He stated his concern that this kind of over-regulation would damage the internet’s infrastructure, limit internet freedom, and hamper innovation.

You can listen to the full piece here.

Azita Mirzaian is a California-licensed attorney who earned her J.D. from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.  Her areas of interest include copyright protection, trademarks, and other intellectual property matters.


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